Beena Khurana Promotes Cal Poly in India with President Armstrong

Beena Khurana, director of MBA programs, accompanied President Jeffrey Armstrong in January to promote Cal Poly and Orfalea College of Business Graduate Programs to Indian Universities and students. They met with the director and faculty of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and the executive director and staff of the United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF) Delhi. Both directors were highly impressed with what Cal Poly has to offer. Associate Deans Sanjiv Jaggia and Kevin Lertwachara traveled to Delhi in March to follow up on the links forged by the president.

Khurana shares her perspective on traveling with President Armstrong and how the two experienced Indian culture together:

It’s not everyday one gets to travel with a relative stranger who is a university president.

In my mind, public figures tend to have IKEA personalities – flat, and largely two-dimensional. So when the opportunity to travel with President Armstrong to promote Cal Poly to Indian Universities and students arose, I wasn’t quite sure what the flat-pack would reveal.

From the first moment it was clear that President Armstrong is not an on-the-sidelines traveller. Upon checking into the hotel he promptly went and got a haircut and discovered one of the greatest joys of India. Haircuts you say? Yes haircuts. Why you ask? Well because they are accompanied with a head massage, ‘champi’. As he showed me his newly hand-trimmed hair, I couldn’t resist telling him that the English word for shampoo is actually derived from the Hindi word ‘champoo’ which describes the process of pressing and kneading the head in order to soothe and relieve stress.

At our first meal together he completely trusted me with selecting what we would eat. Upon ascertaining his constraints, I ordered gosht (lamb), whole moong dal (lentils, slow cooked and rustic) alloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower) along with an assortment of roti (bread). He admired the ‘rumali’ roti; its thinness is legendary and its name literally means ‘handkerchief’. He ate heartily all the while enquiring about the flavors, seasoning, cooking methods and the etiquette of gift giving in India.

The man is without a doubt curious and open to experience. We finished on a signature North Indian dessert – kulfi falooda (Indian ice cream with rose flavored vermicelli). The dish arrived. The President took one look at the noodles and expressed surprise, while reaching for his spoon. He recognized the ‘push out of comfort zone’ moment but that didn’t stop him from embracing it. He ended up loving the dessert and ordering it on subsequent occasions, much to the delight of waiters. A traveller who knows and appreciates the local food is always welcome, especially so in India.

President Armstrong in IndiaPresident Armstrong has a good phonological loop (aka ear). He picks up foreign words easily and quickly puts them to use. ‘Acha’ (which means: fine, good, yes, okay, alright), ‘namaste’ (hello, goodbye) and ‘shukria’ (thank you) were among the first additions. Hotel staff, doormen (there weren’t any women ushering us in and out of buildings) and drivers alike were charmed that he peppered conversations with Hindi words. My favorite outing with him was to Bangla Sahib, a gurudwara (temple) of the Sikh faith. When we visited the kitchen I introduced him to the concept of langar (kitchen, where food is prepared and served free of charge to anyone who stops by, regardless of who they are). Bangla Sahib feeds over 20,000 visitors daily. A couple of cooking stations in, and he had taken on board the essence of Sikhism – ‘seva’ (selfless service). So when the opportunity arose, he contributed by flipping rotis on a huge skillet. I now know that our President doesn’t simply talk about Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy.

And so it came to pass that I became acquainted with President Armstrong’s wellspring of cultural intelligence. Our world today is increasingly diverse. In the smorgasbord of individuals, organizations and nations that we deal with, some of us flourish more so than others. Initially such success was ascribed to a greater intelligence quotient (IQ) and then later to a combination of IQ and emotional intelligence (EQ). However there is a new kid on the block. It is an altogether different intelligence, one that underlies the ability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations – cultural intelligence (CQ). CQ represents the ability to grasp and reason correctly in situations characterized by cultural diversity. Individuals with high CQ are effective not only in facing cross-cultural challenges, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in perceiving and learning from cross-cultural opportunities.

Business Faculty Lead Two Study Abroad Programs to India

By: Lauren Piraro
Special to Mustang News

India is 8,290 miles away from California, nestled between Pakistan and Nepal. Someone who is not familiar with India might conjure up colorful visions of an exotic and foreign land teeming with life and cultural complexities.

Though not typically thought of as a study abroad destination, India has many lessons to teach Cal Poly students — in and out of the classroom.

With two new study abroad programs, “Business and Culture in India” and “Management and Culture in India,” being introduced this year, students will have the opportunity to get to know the real India while also earning college credit.

Cal Poly packaging program director and business administration professor Jay Singh is eager to embark on a four-week experiential business and culture course that’s distinctly tailored with a unique approach to learning.

“You go to a new company, it’s a new classroom,” he explained. “It’s not anything that I know Cal Poly or any other program is doing currently where the classroom changes three times a day on the road.”

The “Business and Culture in India” program includes a humanities and business administration course, “India: Culture, Traditions and Globalization” and “Indian Business Culture.” The humanities course will focus on various aspects of India’s culture, like spirituality, geography and history that heavily influence the country’s business operations.

Singh estimates that he will be visiting at least 20 companies throughout the course of the trip. During the graduate student study abroad programs that he has led in the past, visits have included Cisco, Google and IBM.

Singh said that learning about India’s unique business structure will further business students’ careers.

“You’ve got all these crazy things going on that would never be acceptable to our society, but these are the type of countries that will be dictating terms in a few decades,” he said. “I’m just exposing students to the human side of things. You could take all the business courses here at Cal Poly and never understand that aspect.”

While traveling from New Delhi to Agra, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru, students will have the option to further immerse themselves into the culture with visits to a yoga ashram, the opportunity to experience Mumbai’s nightlife, participate in cooking classes and visit open air street markets. Each city will also incorporate a guided tour along with a free day to wander and explore.

“We’ll be taking them to the Taj Mahal, some forts and factories and we’ll see things being made and constructed,” Singh said. “If they think they know Indian food, it’s going to be an eye-opener.”

Singh incorporates pre-departure sessions into his program to better prepare the students for the adventure ahead.

“We try to get them to learn about India as much as they can beforehand,” he said. “Then again, we can’t really prepare anyone for it. Even I get surprised when I go back there, even though I’ve been there so many times.”

Understanding different types of business and culture is critical for students, whether they are seeking degrees in business or not, Singh says.

“The exposure will bring a lot of meaning to whoever participates,” he said. “It’s not just a course. It’s also about learning about yourself, learning to adapt, learning to be understanding. And that’s the underlying theme throughout all of this.”

Another new and emerging Cal Poly study abroad opportunity in India is “Management and Culture in India,” led by international management professor Beena Khurana.

The courses within the program includes “Culture of India,” a humanities course and a business course titled “International and Cross-cultural management.” Classes are at the Indian School of Business, a premiere college within the country located in Hyderabad.

“I teach international management and cross-cultural relations, so taking a course like that in India is virtually like having a laboratory right around you,” she said. “It makes wonderful sense.”

She plans to begin in Hyderabad while making her way to Mohali. Along the way, students will have the opportunity to explore the culture of India through many varied and colorful assignments, like wearing traditional Indian clothing for a day and renting out an auditorium for a screening of a Bollywood film.

“One is never too old to become bicultural,” she explained. “The idea is that I am going to introduce you to a new culture and encourage you to embrace it. And you should come back a changed person.”

Excursions outside of the main city include a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra and a trek to Amritsar’s Golden Temple. A visit to the Wagha Border of India and Pakistan for the changing of the guard will be a great learning experience for students.

“This really gives the students a good sense of history and a good sense of India’s colonial past,” she said.

While visiting the cities, Khurana scheduled tours to better acquaint the students with nearby temples, architectural monuments and markets.

Guest lectures are also planned with speakers discussing Indian literature, social movements and women’s issues in India. Visits to varying types of businesses and companies are also on the itinerary.

“You will see things that bother you,” she said. “On the other hand, you will also see things that really please you. It’s a country that speaks to your heart and you must be prepared to feel.”

Khurana says her goal is to make sure students come back from their trip with a widened perspective.

“One could first ask, ‘Why travel to India?’” she said. “India has become a progressively larger player on the global scene. It really behooves us to introduce India to Cal Poly students and that’s my objective.”

Khurana explains that her program is an effective way to gain bi-cultural experience, whether you are a business major or not, which is an attractive quality to employers.

“You might come back from India not having liked it, but you might come back having fallen in love with the place,” she said. “You will never know sitting here in San Luis Obispo.”

To read the original Mustang News article, visit